The Indiana Pacers had their three game winning streak snapped in disappointing fashion, falling late to the Toronto Raptors. The Pacers led much of the way, leading by as many as 10 early in the third quarter, but a combination of injuries and a more focused Toronto squad heading into the fourth proved too much for the Pacers to overcome.
Indiana maintained their lead in the early stages of the fourth, but a barrage of three pointers from C.J. Miles saw a four point lead turn into a four point deficit in just over a couple minutes, a deficit the Pacers were unable to recover from. Indiana fell behind by eight with just under two minutes to go but still had opportunities at the free throw line, unfortunately splitting their two trips, leaving the deficit at six as opposed to a more manageable four.
Darren Collison kept hope alive with a three pointer to cut the lead in half with 24 seconds remaining, but indecision in fouling to stop the clock cost them 10 seconds, as DeMar DeRozan iced the game at the line and on a steal and breakaway dunk.
In the end, the Pacers lost on how they had been winning; by forcing turnovers on the Raptors. Indiana had 11 steals in the game, forcing Toronto into 20 turnovers, outscoring the Raptors 18-7 in points off those turnovers. That advantage helped largely offset a 12-7 deficit in three pointers made, a -12 at the free throw, and a staggering 58-35 rebounding disadvantage.
Unfortunately, not being good enough in a lot of areas caught up to the Pacers late. Toronto outrebounded Indiana by six in the fourth quarter, leading to a 57-42 second half score, flipping Indiana on their eight point advantage in the first half. Already short Domantas Sabonis with a sprained ankle, the Pacers suffered another blow with Myles Turner suffering his own ankle injury late in the first half.
Turner attempted to return twice, looking ineffective in his first stint and then aggravating the injury in the fourth quarter. This, coupled with a trademark Jonas-Valanciunas-vs-the-Pacers game of 16 points and 17 rebounds was a major problem with the Pacers forced to turn to a center rotation of Al Jefferson and Trevor Booker.
The Pacers did manage to find a temporary reprieve with the play of the second unit, particularly that of Jefferson. Jefferson went to work in the post, looking vintage en route to a 20 point, 12 rebound double double. But as was the trend of the game, it caught up to him as well, as he went 0-4 in the fourth quarter, missing the jumpers he was hitting throughout the game and looking bogged from being thrust into 25 minutes of action.
Darren Collison led all Pacers with 22 off the bench, hitting three threes to give Indiana a much needed lift from deep after finishing 7-24 on the night, once again seeing a hot start peter out. As the Pacers shooting struggled, Collison’s remained pure, finishing 8-11 and dishing a team high four assists. Unfortunately, he was hampered with a hugely uncharacteristic 3-6 night from the free throw line.
The energy in Bankers Life Fieldhouse was electric early and often thanks to the play of the Pacers. Lance Stephenson brought much of that in the first half with six of his 10 points, including a big dunk on the baseline.
As well as the bench played, the starters were unable to break out of mediocrity in their shooting. Victor Oladipo and Thaddeus Young each reached double figures with 18 and 13 respectively, but needed 19 and 13 shots to get there. The duo did combine for seven steals, but were only able to score four points off of them. Bojan Bogdanovic and Cory Joseph did worse, combining for 3-17, and just 2-8 from three point range.
Some familiar notes in this Pacers/Raptors series came to the forefront with rebounding especially, but the Pacers looked sharp and able for much of the night. It’s hard to see a playoff series between the two teams going any other direction, but with health, Indiana looks up to the challenge.
Taking on the loss, the Pacers will now look towards their injury situation with Turner as Sabonis is already ruled out of Indiana’s Saturday night road game against the Washington Wizards. Washington’s center rotation of Marcin Gortat and Ian Mahinmi spells problems for Jefferson and Booker, making the availability of Ike Anigbogu an interesting wild card if Nate McMillan’s hand is forced.
Indiana drops to fourth in the East on percentage points to the Cavs, but will await the outcome of Cleveland’s road game against Portland before knowing where they’ll sit at the end of the night. Meanwhile, a loss to Washington on Saturday will drop them behind the Wizards be it fourth or fifth.
Elsewhere in the East, Philadelphia rallied late to beat New York, bringing them back to within two games, currently in sixth.